Community Conversation shaping the future of education

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by Lucie Roy

Morinville – The MCHS gym was turned into an active workshop Jan. 16. More than 70 students, staff, dignitaries, parents, teachers, and trustees from the communities of Legal and Morinville gathered with members of the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools Board to engage on the future of education at MCHS. In his presentation MCHS Principal Todd Eistetter said, “MCHS is an excellent school, but we want to make it better. We want to be the lighthouse school in the province, one that students and families from other areas want to register at and one that other high schools want to emulate.”

Eistetter said he was very happy with how it went. “Exceptional. People talked about their thoughts and expectations and listened to the plans the school presented. This is a first for us and it was something very powerful. It will be interesting to see how our plans can address the priorities brought forth tonight.” He believes the event will result in good things and opportunities for the school. Eistetter said the feedback was positive at all the workshop tables and he is looking forward to the results. He said the Student Council members played a big part in the process.

GSACRD Superintendent David Keohane welcomed the participants and provided an explanation of the five step process in engaging conversation on the question: How can we design our Catholic high school experience to be schools of choice for students? A facilitator at each table controlled the discussions, followed by a ranking of priorities and reporting of the top priorities and poll voting. Of the nine priorities, Innovative Opportunities for students ranked first, followed by quality of education taking up 40 per cent of the vote in those two areas. The results of the votes will be available at the GSACRD office, District website and provided to school councils.

GSACRD Superintendent David Keohane said in his welcome address, “As a result of the kind of work conducted here this evening, MCHS will be able to validate its direction for the future. And the Board will be able to update its priorities for its high schools within its Three Tear Education Plan.”

Conversation fits with provincial plans

In his presentation Eistetter said Albert Education wrote a document titled Inspiring Education that looks at what school learning and education should aspire to be in the province. The desired student attributes that are mentioned in the document include: creativity, cultural awareness, initiative, civic engagement, accountability, problem solving, creativity, communication, production and responsibility. These qualities are what the schools have strived for, but the emphasis on these qualities has intensified and how students develop these qualities and skills has evolved dramatically as well.

MCHS is now part of the Alberta Education High School Flexibility Enhancement Phase 2 Pilot Project which allows the school to research, talk about, plan and develop some very interesting possibilities- over and above what they may have done in the past.

One of the examples he used is that this project allows the school to get away from the use of the Carnegie Unit which was implemented in 1906 that required the students to have 125 instructional hours to earn five high school credits. If a student could master the concept in less than 125 hours it did not matter now there is more flexibility and it gives the students a positive enforcement in their learning. There are many different models for the Flexibility Enhancement Pilot that participating high schools are developing he said all with the same goal of improving learning for students and providing them with choices. The proposed Friday MCHS Seminar Day would provide the students with excellent opportunities increase their learning experience, improve their achievement and potentially improving their chances for university acceptance and success in the workforce. Attendance would be required for Seminar Day. It would be a regular school day but with extraordinary learning options, from faith development, band, art, off campus sessions to subjects that are not regularly offered in the school. The Seminar Day would be based on three educational opportunities; remedial learning, emergent and divergent or new learning.

The school is also looking at a new credit recovery program. If a student does not successfully complete a course in the first semester they will have a chance to work with a teacher to relearn and redo the units they did not pass in that course. Then they can redo the assessment and have the opportunity to earn those credits and saving them considerable time. Right now the students who do not successfully pass a course must redo the complete course.

There are learning opportunities with post-secondary institutions they are investigating. Starting in semester two, which is in a few weeks, as part of the GSACRD International School of Business, MacEwan University will be at MCHS offering BUSN 201 to some of the Grade 12 students- allowing them to earn university credits while still in high school. These would be dual credits, earning credits in high school and university at the same time.

Eistetter said “Many of the jobs in 2013 did not exist in 2003; social media strategist, user experience specialist, telework manager, elder care coordinator and sustainability manager. Some of the top 25 jobs in Canada such as database administrator, software developer, web developer and computer programmer were not around that many years ago. Many of the jobs that our students will be applying for in five years do not exist yet, the work title has not yet been given and those jobs not yet thought of. The world is changing rapidly and schools have changed and will continue to change to meet the evolving needs of our learners and of the world.”

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